Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 1/2/13
HOUSTON -- For a team admittedly dependent upon 3-point shooting, the Rockets deserve credit for showcasing offensive versatility when their normally reliable perimeter touch failed them Wednesday night. Rockets center Omer Asik, with a late assist from reserve forward Patrick Patterson, led a dominating effort in the paint as the Rockets earned a 104-92 win over the New Orleans Hornets at Toyota Center. The Rockets (18-14) missed 19 of 24 3-point attempts yet negated that subpar showing by outscoring the Hornets (7-25) 60-28 in the paint. "Every time we made a mistake they were at the rim," Hornets coach Monty Williams said. "They just kept attacking our guards with penetration. They didn't knock down the 3s they normally knock down, but I thought they played in our paint all night long." Asik matched his career high of 21 points and added eight rebounds. Patterson chipped in 15 points, 13 after the Rockets went small for defense in the fourth quarter, and 10 rebounds in 22 minutes off the bench. James Harden paced the Rockets with 31 points and seven assists. On the strength of a 16-6 run thanks in large part to the shooting of reserve big men Jason Smith and Ryan Anderson, the Hornets erased the Rockets' 76-66 lead by the seven-minute mark of the fourth. Asik followed with a 3-point play, keying a 17-4 run that included a Chandler Parsons drive to the hoop and back-to-back baskets from Patterson, the latter being a 3-pointer at the 1:57 mark that bumped the lead to 99-88. "When you have (Robin) Lopez and Anthony Davis down there, two guys who can block shots, it causes you to take more jump shots than you want to," Patterson said. "But down the stretch, when we realized the shots weren't falling, we started attacking the basket more. We started looking for one another, sharing the ball more. We started doing that more often and were able to score at will." Anderson and Smith combined for 30 points off the bench for the Hornets, who received 15 points and 14 assists from Greivis Vasquez. "We made a great effort to come back in the game," Vasquez said. "I think our juice ran out and we didn't have enough to close out the game." From the very start, it was a test of wills between two teams on opposite ends of the pace spectrum. The Rockets lead the NBA in possessions per 48 minutes but the Hornets, who rank last, would not allow them to run. The Hornets slugged their way through the first quarter, committing defensively in the half court before the Rockets methodically generated momentum. Houston closed the first half just 1-for-11 on 3-pointers, yet amazingly managed to hit half of their 20 second-quarter shot attempts. Asik, whose solo battle with Lopez set a physical tone early, helped the Rockets establish some semblance of offensive balance. He and Harden combined for 25 of the Rockets' 49 first-half points, with Asik rising to the challenge Lopez presented with his relentless banging on the block. With its style of play set, New Orleans did not relent, but the Rockets appeared to relish the chance to defeat the Hornets at their own game. "They have a style, they play it," Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. "They are solid defensively. They have a bunch of young guys that are learning. They make you earn your points." NOTES: After following a seven-game road losing streak with successive wins at the Knicks, Bulls and Timberwolves, the Rockets will play nine of 11 games on the road starting Friday in Milwaukee. "It's going to be a huge test for us to see how we play on the road," McHale said. "We've got to play our style, home (and) on the road. We've got to be persistent in playing how we need to play every time we're on the floor. If we can do that, home or road, we'll give ourselves a chance." ... Hornets brass has decided to avoid playing guard Eric Gordon in back-to-back games as he rebounds from knee problems. Gordon made his season debut at Charlotte on Dec. 29. "Obviously as a coach you want him out there, but you've got to err on the side of caution," Williams said.
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